About 5 million young adults are graduating from U.S. colleges this month. This rite of passage is perhaps a parent's last chance to instill important lessons about the business world. What words of advice would you give?
Here are my suggestions:
1. "Do not confuse the familiar with the universal" - in other words, not everyone is going to think like you do. Often people get into business trouble because they believe that whoever is sitting across the table from them has their same values. Set yourself high ethical standards but have your eyes wide open to the fact that not everyone plays the game by the same set of rules.
2. "Think of yourself as an entrepreneur" - no matter what job you have, no matter what you are doing, you are really a business entity in and to yourself. Jobs come and go but the value you can bring to any situation will eventually determine your financial success.
3. "You only win if you add value" - all that people care about in the business world is what you can do for them. That is not a judgment about people - that is the nature of a capitalistic system which trades one commodity for another. So, always focus on what you are bringing to the party.
4. "Budgets are really really important" - most people who get into financial trouble do so blindly. They spend more than they make and cover the shortfall with debt. Debt of course is a slippery slope and once you start borrowing, it is hard to stop.
5. "On the other hand, you will never maximize your financial potential if you do not learn to deal with debt" - there are many people who maintain a NO DEBT policy, in other words, they only buy what they can afford right then and there. To me, this policy is nonsensical. Debt can help a person build a foundation for a better life. Many students, for example, have bettered their situation with student loans. And, every successful entrepreneur I know had to learn to live with debt.
6. "Spend five hours educating yourself about income taxes" - I don't care if you do it online, with books, or by meeting with an accountant but, every young adult should have a basic understanding of how our income tax system works.
7. "Never believe 100% of what you hear from someone who makes his or her living selling" - whether dealing with a stock broker, a real estate agent or a car salesman, when the compensation of the person you are dealing with is tied to the purchase you are contemplating, do your own homework.
8. "You will never achieve your full potential in business unless you find something you really love doing" - the only common thread among ultra-successful people is that they found something about which they were passionate and threw themselves into it.
9. "Never invest in something you don't fully understand" - if you are confused, ask as many questions as you want. If the person seeking your investment is not patient, clear and forthcoming, do not make that investment. Never be afraid of looking stupid. It is often the "dumb" ones who "just don't get it" who avoid the Madoff's of the world.
10. "Nothing good comes easy" - whatever your business goal(s) may be, prepare yourself for a difficult journey ahead. Once you realize that the passage from where you are to where you want to be will not be easy, then the passage is no longer so difficult. If you expect and anticipate hard times, you will be ready to persevere your way to success.
Please add your suggestions or, revise mine. Perhaps we can collaboratively prepare a list that will be helpful to all of our kids. Thanks!
Jim Randel is the author of The Skinny On book series - books that are intended to educate in an entertaining, quick read. www.theskinnyon.com
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